Wednesday, March 30, 2005

City of Phlegm

I keep dreaming about high school. I sometimes wish that I didn't remember my dreams, that I was one of those people who aren't troubled by introspection and self doubt, but just act on instinct and go merrily about their way. Yesterday in Toronto I passed a guy sitting on the sidewalk. He asked for money, but I only had a dollar. It wasn't even really my dollar; someone had given it to me. And I needed to buy cat food. Anyways, I told the guy I was broke. He said, "But I'm going to kill myself." And I said, "Don't do that!", and kept going down the street.

I was waiting out front of a health food store for my friend, standing on the sidewalk with her two year old child who would start crying if she took him into the store. A tall woman came and tied up her little dog to the parking meter beside us before entering the health food store herself. As I stood there, people passing mistook the animal for my own, putting on warm smiles at the congenial contstellation of man, child and dog. This is how appearances can be deceiving, because neither the child nor the dog were mine, and I had a lot more in common with the guy sitting on the curb and begging for change, but nobody was smiling at him.

My freind was taking forever in the store. It was a cool grey spring day on a busy Toronto street. Someone was washing the window of a shop a little way down. A burley man was standing outside of a restaurant. He had shortly cropped greying hair and bulldogish features. He was lighting a cigarette when the beggar came staggering up the sidewalk. The beggar walked up to the smoking man and asked him for money, then started waving his hand back and forth in front of the smoker's face in some kind of compulsive, vaguely aggressive gesture. Maybe he was trying to fan away the smoke. The smoker started flicking the beggar's shoulder with his free hand, attempting to drive him away. The two figures remained locked for a moment in their mutual frantic gestures, like a scene from the Three Stooges, until the beggar took off down the sidewalk. The smoker attempted to deal one more blow to the beggar's back as he fled, and yelled, "Get off of Roncesvalles!". Then he looked around, attempting to make eye contact with me, the sole witness to the incident. I deliberatley avoided meeting his gaze, since he seemed to want some sort of commendation for his treatment of the deranged beggar, but I was just disgusted by the whole incident and feeling guilty that I had not given the man my dollar earlier.

I partly envied the disagreeable smoker, who evidently felt justified in his indignation agianst the beggar. Maybe he had dealt with the man before. There seemed to be some sort of familiarity between them. The impulse he acted upon had not been compasionate, but at least he had carried it through. I, on the other hand, had not acted on my impulse to give away the dollar, and both hated myself and the smoking man, who became a kind of projection, my own fear and intolerance made flesh.

No comments: